When I was in my early 20s I booked myself on an 18-35s coach tour of Europe. For a shy soul it was a brave move; I went by myself and knew nobody when I boarded the coach. After a day or so friendships and alliances began, and the back seat, six across, was staked out by the Booze Brothers, a bunch of young Aussies and Kiwis who could drink for their country – and frequently did. Because of them our group became notorious in the hotbed of 18-35s Euro tours. We were thrown out of restaurants across the continent; the BB and some of the rowdier girls trashed a 15th century villa in Florence; the BB’s pirate flag, draped over the rear window, almost had the entire coach load arrested in Eastern Europe. And that was just the tip of the iceberg.
It was a tour leader’s nightmare, and our capable and affable 30-something Aussie tour leader rose to the challenge, but even he was exhausted by the end of the two month tour, trying to keep the BB in line, trying to keep his job, trying to guide our first-time coach driver through foreign cities, trying to keep the peace on the tour itself as by then the only people talking to each other were the Booze Brothers. I felt for the guy. If you’ve ever thought being a tour leader is a cushy job and a great way to see beautiful parts of the world, think again. It’s seriously hard work.
Which brings me to A Coach Load of Chaos, whose likeable, mild-mannered, unassuming but rather devious hero is William, a tour leader on coach trips to Europe (luckily for him of the general variety, not the 18-35s).
Revenge is a dish best served cold, and William has had many years to contemplate the nasty treatment dished out to him by other boys and a teacher at boarding school. He’s reinvented himself; he’s not recognisable as the same bespectacled lad. He’s a respectable tour leader in his tenth season on the job. And when his boss begs him to fill ten places left by a sudden cancellation on a French coach tour, William has a brainwave. He’ll tell his worst torturers they have won a free place (or two) on the trip.
As William plots a delicious revenge on each of them as they travel through France – and there are some wonderful laugh out loud moments when the baddies get their just desserts, especially the one dished out to his French teacher – he also finds himself in the beginnings of a romance with the most unlikely girl from head office. It seems the coolly efficient Helena lets her hair down literally and figuratively away from the office; but can William compete with her passion for the exquisite beauty of superbly restored vintage buses?
The action and the giggles rock along with the energy of an air-conditioned Mercedes coach speeding down the Route Nationale. Many of the locations visited by William and his hapless tourists are real; some of the accommodation they stay in… well, seasoned travellers will have experienced much the same! Except maybe without the stunningly bad coffee one guest is given. Heh heh.
British author Rob Sissons writes from experience; he works in the travel industry and conducts tours in the UK and Europe. This is his first novel and I hope it won’t be his last. I started reading this book one afternoon and couldn’t put it down until I finished it late that night, my sides sore from laughing.